Sunday, November 18, 2012

Crib Lem to Carnedd Dafydd, a scabrous walk

From a roomy layby on the A5 just north of Llyn Ogwen we walked up a farm track, got wet feet in a bog, then dropped steeply down until we faced the Glyder-like scenery. Miniscule figurines of early morning walkers on the horizon gave a sense of scale to this raven patrolled fortress. Our route into the clouds was Crib Lem, every bit as exciting as the north face of Tryfan but without the crowds.

Following the hoof marks of wild ponies
Who or what was Lem or Glem? The discussion was inconclusive though someone spoke of a northern expression for being cold and maybe this was a Viking word we had subsumed. If you hung around contemplating too long it quickly became glem with a puddle of bog in your boots.

[I've now had it explained to me: Lem is the mutated version of Llym which means sharp or severe].

Our guide Rob Collister led us skilfully up the scrambly ridge until we reached the top of Carnedd Dafydd. We could hear the chough calling out and then it broke through the cloud and continued on its way.

Sitting in the summit shelters we were reminded that carnedd means cairn as in burial and that Dafydd was the younger brother of (neighbouring Carnedd) Llywelyn, the last prince of an independent Wales. His daughter was Gwenllian and her name has now been given to what was previously called Carnedd Lladron or Carnedd Uchaf. 

From the top we strode out along the ridge towards Pen yr Ole Wen, with sunshine illuminating Llŷn, and paused to look at the vegetation beneath our feet. Was this montane heath? It’s very rare and, apart from Pumlumon, Snowdonia is the most southerly occurrence with our best bits in the Carneddau. It has suffered from too much nitrogen, excess sheep grazing and consequent dung and urine. With reductions in sheep numbers there has been a slight recovery but declines of some plant species. CCW wanted to establish whether it was sheep or walkers that are the problem and placed a camera on the ridge which clearly showed that walkers generally stick to the main path and that the sheep are the problem. There are very few sheep but for some reason they always tend towards the ridge, maybe that’s where they escape the midges? We had a brief discussion on rumours that there might be fencing to exclude the sheep and how ugly that would be in this wild part of the mountains. I will try and find out whether there is any substance to this rumour.

Scabrous terrain - not a fence in sight
As we veered downwards Rob warned us to take care across this ‘scabreuse’ terrain – with a word like that I knew I was out walking with an international mountain leader. Definitely French and its English equivalent, scabrous, meaning ‘rough and covered with scabs’. Sort of appropriate for the bloody deaths of Llywelyn and Dafydd.

Events such as this are among the many reasons for wanting to join the Snowdonia Societyand, with Christmas coming up, the 20% discount at Cotswold Outdoor is much appreciated. Many thanks Rob.

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